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Video: How developers are still fighting their arcade heritage 30 years later Exclusive
August 9, 2012 | By Staff




[Note: To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website]

The industry needs to "unlearn" how it defines games, argued veteran game designer Mark Cerny at last year's GDC Europe while discussing the rise of social and mobile games.

He's had more than a little experience with transitions in the industry, having gone from making classic arcade games like Marble Madness, to working on console platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and even lending a hand to modern blockbusters like Resistance and Uncharted.

"Unlearning is where you take the lessons that you paid for in blood, and you throw them out and you start all over again," said Cerny. "it's very hard to do. And we now have to do that with what we believe a game to be, those of us who are making those triple-a console titles.

Cerny expects it's going to take developers 20 years to unlearn their current preconceptions of what makes a game (e.g. narrative, death, endings, chances to fail). Why so long? The industry is slow to change, and he says that many developers are still unlearning the lessons of the golden age of the arcade 30 years later.

For example, many of those games were distinguished by being notoriously difficult and killing players willy-nilly. "You had to kill the player once a minute. ... Marble Madness was four minutes long. We needed players to earn that over the course of several months. So that level of difficulty was just required."

He said that because of that mindset, developers would add features in games just to make them harder, and continued making them needlessly difficult or punishing even as games became longer. "The idea is still, for no reason at all, if you aren't dying, it's not a game," Cerny added.

To learn more about Cerny's thoughts on how the industry is changing and needs to change, be sure to watch his full presentation above, courtesy of GDC Vault. Note that GDC Europe will return soon to Cologne, Germany this August 13-14 -- more details on the event and registering online are available here

About the GDC Vault

In addition to all of this free content, the GDC Vault also offers more than 300 additional lecture videos and hundreds of slide collections from GDC 2012 for GDC Vault subscribers. GDC 2012 All Access pass holders already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form.

Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins.

Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more free content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from upcoming 2012 events like GDC Europe, GDC Online, and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.


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